Protests and demonstrations in support of the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who are in the midst of a dispute with the Federal and British Columbia governments over the construction of the Coastal Link Pipeline, have spread across the country. One particular flashpoint in that debate has been focussed in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory within the Diocese through the blockade of the Canadian National Railway which was recently removed.
The issues are complex and defy the application of simplistic explanations and quick fix solutions. I am writing today to the people of our diocese to neither condemn nor condone the actions that have been taken, but to encourage you to stay the course on the path toward reconciliation which lies at the very heart of our Christian faith. The prophet Isaiah calls us to be those who “rebuild ancient ruins” becoming known as the “repairers of the breach”. Jesus ordered Peter to put his sword away on the night of his arrest for “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword”. We are never to be deterred from following the path toward healing and wholeness extending from our personal relationships through to the great global conflicts of our time.
I attended Question Period at the Ontario Legislature on February 24th when Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa queried the government about the situation with the OPP at Tyendinaga. He was further quoted in the Huffington Post as declaring reconciliation to be dead. I couldn’t disagree more with MPP Mamakwa. Reconciliation is not dead, it is difficult, often messy, comprised of a few steps forward and many steps backward, is taken up by champions who want to bridge divides and opposed by those for whom those same divides are their end goals. It is most of all, a generational commitment.
Our Primate, Archbishop Linda Nichols, National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald and the Bishops of British Columbia issued a Statement on the unfolding situation wherein they declared: “We renew our commitment to continuing to find ways to stand in solidarity with them (Wet’suwet’en people) as we persist in our own path of seeking to decolonize our institutions and structures.” Archbishop MacDonald later wrote a thoughtful and sensitive piece on this matter in the Anglican Journal.
Today, we gather in our places of worship on Ash Wednesday. We will recall both the frailty and gift that is human life and the Spirit who gives us breath and draws us together in the unity of the Body of Christ. I will travel to Tyendinaga to gather at noon with the Anglicans at All Saints Church for the Ash Wednesday service. I will remember the frailty of our life and the gift that it is. I will begin the Lenten Season of repentance in the full knowledge that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Then I will begin again.
I ask your prayers, commitment, words and actions to be focussed on the hope that is set before us, grounded in the Law of Love and strengthened by the Spirit who makes us one. May you, our nation and the world experience the healing presence of that same Spirit.
Yours in Christ,